Women stretching on a yoga mat

Spinal health 101

Most people have a sore back or neck from time to time. It’s normal. Whether you lifted something too heavy, slept the wrong way the night before or tweaked something at the gym, there are lots of ways you can hurt your back. You may also be genetically predisposed to having spinal issues.

A recent study at Simon Fraser University may have found a link between upright locomotion and spinal health. Kimberly Plomp, a post-doctoral fellow and biological anthropologist at the university, had spent seven years researching the relationship between vertebral shape, upright locomotion and spinal health.

"We have found that some characteristics of human vertebrae differ in shape between those individuals who have a lesion called a Schmorl's node—a small hernia that can occur in the cartilaginous disc between the vertebrae," Plomp says.

"As evolution occurred, our vertebrae would have changed as we evolved from using some form of quadrupedal locomotion, using four legs, to bipedalism, using two legs… In short, our study suggests that the pathological vertebrae of some people may be less well adapted for walking upright," she adds, suggesting that some people are more susceptible to spinal and back injuries.

These developments are a reminder that there is a lot we can do to improve our spinal health, especially considering how many Canadians are living with spinal issues today.

Spinal health statistics

According to Spinal Cord Injury Canada:

  • More than 86,000 people in Canada are living with a spinal cord injury
  • About 43,000 spinal cord injuries occur each year
  • About 51% of spinal injuries result from accidents, and the remaining 49% are the result of disease
  • The estimated annual cost of traumatic injuries in Canada is about $3.6 billion, and direct health care costs amount to $1.8 billion

Tips for maintaining a healthy spine

Many people deal with back and spinal pain on a daily basis, which undoubtedly affects their quality of life. Being proactive about caring for your back is the key to a strong and healthy spine:

  • Stay active: Keeping active, whether that involves going to the gym, biking, doing yoga or walking, promotes good spinal health.
  • Stretch daily: “Keeping flexible helps maintain normal joint function and a good range of motion. It also reduces the risk of injury,” says Anne Coffey, a chiropractor, in Everyday Health.
  • Work smart: If you spend most of your days at a desk in front of the computer, proper ergonomics will play a big role in reducing stress on your back muscles and spine.
  • Lift properly: We have all heard it before: Lift with your legs, not with your back. But how many of us actually practise the proper lifting technique?
  • Pay attention to warning signs: If you have regular or even sporadic back pain, it could be a sign that something is wrong, and left untreated, a minor injury or condition could deteriorate into a major issue. Talk with your chiropractor and have your spine examined.

Top private health insurance companies can help you get the proper care you need if you have a spinal health issue. Back and spine issues can be debilitating, requiring extensive medications, therapy and even surgery. Good health insurance coverage can help you cover the medical costs related to chiropractic treatment.

Not sure how to compare medical insurance plans? Want to learn more about how health insurance coverage can benefit you? Contact Blue Cross for more information, or get a free insurance quote online today.